A History of Bartonellosis (Carrión's Disease)

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  • National Communicable Disease Center, Public Health Service, Bureau of Disease Prevention and Environmental Control, Atlanta, Georgia 30333
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Bartonellosis, known also by the eponym Carrión's disease, has long been associated with the Peruvian Andes. From pre-Inca times, through the Spanish Conquest, to the “Guano Age” of the 19th century and up to the modern period, Carrión's disease has been said to have played a role in the life of Perú. The history of this exotic disease will be presented in this paper, with a discussion of the evidence for and against its attribution to major epidemics in the past. This exposition may introduce the reader to a segment of medical history that has for many years been a subject of special interest to Peruvian scholars.

Bartonellosis is a disease unusual in its manifestations. The causative organism, Bartonella bacilliformis, actually causes two illnesses that are strikingly different in their appearance and in their underlying pathologic processes. In addition to causing nonclinical asymptomatic infections, this organism can produce either one or both of the syndromes known as Oroya fever and verruga peruana.